Rating: 5 Stars
After the last book mail I got, I had made a To Be Read pile and decided to read the books starting from the top. Beartown by Fredrik Backman was at the bottom of the pile because of its size. When I got disillusioned by a couple of books from the top, I was very tempted to cheat, take it out from the bottom and read it before the other books. After all, this book was written by the same author who wrote A Man Called Ove, and it was sure to be the pick-me-up I needed after reading some very mediocre books.
I’m glad I didn’t give in to my impulse. I’m glad I only read it after I had finished the other books in the pile. Infact, I should have waited a couple of more days before reading it. Because I still have a couple of reviews to write, and I sat down to write them too, but this book has completely, utterly left me unable to think of anything else! It has destroyed me. I have begun to question my sanity in not reading the reviews first and being blindsided by this heavyweight of a book.
Beartown is a very small town, becoming smaller by the day, with no prospects and no future, except for the junior ice hockey team. This team is what represents hope for the town, and this team is what the whole town revolves around. The book starts very slowly, as we get to know all the characters. And there are a lot of them, a whole town’s worth.
Normally, I give up trying to read a book long before I reach even a 100 pages, if nothing has happened. I don’t know what made me go on reading when all I wanted to do was put the book down and forget about it. I’m still not sure if I’m happy about sticking to it. I don’t like being so attached to fictional characters that I can feel their pain in my heart. It sucks.
Fair Warning: This book deals with rape and its aftermath.
The rape, when it happens, is shocking and violent, and sadly, echoes so many real-life incidents that you just stop reading for a while and need a moment to absorb it all. This, however, only leaves you feeling angry and wanting justice. What follows is what is really heart wrenching. For it reflects what every survivor has to go through. When a boy tells her to go to the police, the girl says it doesn’t matter because no one will believe her. Because the rapist is a hockey player. And Beartown is a hockey town.
Everything that happens in the book from that point on, is just how small towns, small hockey towns, small hockey towns that have nothing else to look forward to, react when their start player is accused of a crime by a girl. Nothing that happens is out of the ordinary. It is what would happen in any small town in the world where such a crime was committed. And this is what makes it so sad and heartbreaking.
What makes it all bearable is that when a family, already devastated by a tragedy, stands up against a whole town, there are still people who are brave enough to stand with them. Even if they are so few that they can be counted on the fingers of one hand, there is someone who has enough guts to stand up and tell everyone how wrong they are, there is someone who believes the word of the girl over that of the hockey star, there is someone who eventually, at the expense of everything they hold dear, is willing to tell the truth. This, after all, is also the story of individuals with big hearts and guilty consciences, individuals cut from the same cloth as the rest of the town, but with a different thinking.
In the end, you’re left feeling cheated, because there is no neat end to the chain of events that started on that one night. We’re given some glimpses of the future, and we know that life has gone on for everyone involved, and to some extent, it seems that justice has been served. Just not in the way you wanted.
Reading this book was a gut wrenching experience for me, and then I found out that there is also a sequel! No. My heart cannot stand it. I don’t know if I can gather enough courage to read through another book like this, but this will definitely remain one of those books that made me break down in tears. I’m almost afraid to think what Fredrik Backman has in store for this little town next.